For a driver in an accident with a truck, the cause of the accident may seem quite clear and may even look like it was the driver’s fault. But things may not be as they seem, particularly in an accident case.
Over the past ten years, automakers have recalled a number of trucks for problems ranging from brake corrosion to steering failures—and even engine failure while driving. While these problems are serious, many people never hear of them because a recall may not be publicized where the driver lives or in something they read; in 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that only about 70 percent of vehicles that are recalled ever get the necessary repairs.
A good accident investigation takes time, and drivers should never admit to any type of liability before all the facts are in. It may not be the driver’s fault; mechanical failure is always a possibility. You need an experienced lawyer on your side during the entire process, contact us today to get started.
Brake problems: sometimes stopping isn’t an option
The NHTSA asked for a number of General Motors trucks to be recalled due to saltwater corrosion of the brake lines. Although the agency has been investigating the problem since 2010, GM opposed the recall, stating in a press release that, “The trucks in question are long out of factory warranty and owners’ manuals urge customers to have their brake lines inspected the same way brake pads need replacement for wear. In fact, more than 20 states require brake line inspections at one- or two-year intervals or when stopped for a violation.”
Some of GM’s best-selling trucks were cited by NHTSA as having problems: the Silverado, Sierra and Suburban, from the 1999 to 2003 model years, as well as the Tahoe and Yukon from model years 2000 to 2003. There have been 26 crashes caused by braking problems according to reports, and 10 other cases where the driver managed to steer off the road or into another lane to avoid a crash. GM’s filing with NHTSA states one injury and no deaths in reported crashes.
Steering problems affect all US automakers
In 2014, GM was also forced to recall 477 Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra pickups and Chevy Tahoe SUVs for a tie-rod defect that could lead to steering loss, although the company stated they had fixed the problem after only a limited amount had left the factory.
But GM is not the only company to be subject to recalls; in 2014, what is now known as Fiat Chrysler had to recall an estimated 968,000 trucks because the front-wheel tie rods may have been misaligned during assembly or steering-system service. The defect could lead to component fracture and steering loss, and the 2003-’08 Ram 2500 and 3500 and the 2008-’12 Ram 4500 and 5500 4×4 chassis cabs were all covered under the recall order.
Ford Motor Company has also found itself recalling vehicles; in June 2014, it issued a recall for almost 6,000 Ford F150 trucks built from May 26 through June 19, 2014 due to electronic steering-gear problems. An incorrectly installed sensor magnet could impair steering and cause loss of steering control, increasing the risk of a crash, Ford said.
Engine failure: when the truck simply stops running while driving
In 2013 Toyota, a company normally known for excellent manufacturing quality, was forced to recall 4,000 2013-’14 Toyota Tacoma pickup trucks in the U.S. because of faulty engine valve springs that could cause engine failure. The problem, which Toyota attributed to improper maintenance on the machinery used to make the valve springs, could cause the springs to crack and break—and in some cases, even cause the engine to stop running while the truck was being driven.
Recently, Ford has also been scrutinized by the NHTSA for problems with its 6.7 liter “Power Stroke” engine, which are normally used in ambulances; however, some non-emergency trucks have the same engine and are suffering sensor failure. One complainant stated in his filing, “The truck shut down for no reason that I could see.” At the time, the person was on the highway doing 70 miles per hour.
Being in an accident is a traumatic event, and people immediately look for someone to blame. However, only good investigative work by those used to dealing with accident issues can truly determine who—or what—is culpable. Sometimes the machine, not the person, is at fault.